New York--Fretting over the legal and regulatory land mines posed by privacy, CEOs are increasingly making it a top priority, according to a new survey from the Direct Marketing Association. Sixty-eight percent of companies polled said the president or CEO, or a chief privacy official that reports directly to the president or CEO, has the primary responsibility for privacy, according to the DMA Corporate Privacy Officer survey. Forty-seven percent of the 282 companies polled said they sought outside consultants to advise on privacy, and 38% have used lawyers. At 26% of the companies polled, a president or CEO oversees privacy; 15%, have put a marketing manager in charge. Eight percent of those companies polled said a list manager oversees privacy. Only 7%, meanwhile, have placed a direct marketing manager in charge. The survey findings show companies are not myopic in their privacy oversight, monitoring a broad range of areas. Eighty-one percent said they monitor privacy legislation; 80% self-regulatory issues; 69% privacy technology issues; 46% employees' privacy issues; and 37% international privacy issues. The DMA surveyed companies, mostly from its membership, across a broad range of industries including direct marketing, financial, retail/catalog and publishing.The DMA's findings come as privacy moves from being an obscure topic to one of major importance to b-to-b marketers.Pending legislation that could drastically curtail the sharing of client information is being considered by Congress, and big b-to-b marketers, including IBM Corp., are putting the topic front and center. IBM Chairman-CEO Lou Gerstner has been especially outspoken on privacy issues, encouraging self-regulation-an approach the DMA is also recommending. Last year, IBM became one of the first Fortune 500 marketers to adopt a double opt-in e-mail marketing policy.
--Philip B. Clark